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How to eat well: tips for self-employed people who don’t have much time

6-minute read

Sophie Bertrand

24 March 2021

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Here, nutritionist and founder of Sophie’s Healthy Kitchen, Sophie Bertrand, shares her expert tips for eating well as a small business owner.

Many small business owners have told us that they’ve struggled with their mental health during the coronavirus pandemic. Food and diet have a big impact on both mental and physical health – Sophie’s guidance is easy to put into action today.

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Eating well, without complication

As a small business owner myself, I know what it’s like to never truly switch off. Yes, we may have more flexibility when it comes to our schedule, but we arguably end up working more hours than most. And sometimes, certain aspects of our health don’t get prioritised.

Being a nutritionist, I want to help make things easier for you. Healthy doesn’t have to be complicated, or time consuming, and it certainly doesn’t have to be boring.

In this first section, I share three top tips to help improve your eating habits while you’re busy running your own business.

1. Stock up on cupboard staples

Cupboard staples (including tinned foods like beans, chickpeas and lentils) are so underrated. Not only are they super cheap to buy, they’re also incredibly nutritious. As well as being a good source of plant protein, they’re naturally low in fat and provide nutrients such as folate, iron, potassium and fibre.

You can add these foods to salads, grain bowls, stews, soups, stir fries, and pastas. Here are some of my favourite simple recipes using cupboard staples:

Sweet potato mixed bean stew

Black bean pasta bake

Vegan meatballs

Sophie's 10-minute stir fry recipe

2. Use your freezer

Frozen foods can be life savers – from fruits to veggies and frozen meals, the freezer can be your best friend when you’re busy running your own business.

I personally never buy fresh berries unless they’re in season. Frozen berries are picked at their peak and frozen almost instantly, meaning they actually retain more nutrients than those fresh berries that sit in your fridge and look like they’ve gone off within a day.

It’s also much cheaper. I love adding them to breakfast bowls, smoothies or defrosting them to snack on. Same goes for frozen veggies – it can be really helpful to freeze bags of leafy greens such as spinach and kale to add to smoothies or stir fries. I also love freezing pre-chopped onions, red pepper and garlic. In fact you can actually buy frozen bags of them, which are a lot cheaper and last longer.

3. Batch cook

If you’re cooking a meal, double up and use that freezer. On those nights that you really don’t feel like cooking, you can rely on yourself to have already saved a nice, well-balanced meal that only requires a microwave. Here are some of my favourite recipes to use for batch cooking:

Quinoa jackfruit mozzarella bake

Tofu chickpea stir fry

Why is it so important to eat well?

I have no place for diets in my practice. Diets tend to encourage restriction, which not only leads to lack of nutrition, but also creates an unhealthy relationship with food. Diet culture has made food sound so much more complicated than it has to be.

Food is fuel and nourishment for the body, but it should also be enjoyable and continue to make us feel good.

There are so many ways diet can affect our health. But here are three key ways food affects you, to encourage you to think about the content of your everyday meals.

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1. Food and your mental health

Food fuels every part of our body, so it makes sense that it has the ability to impact how we feel mentally.

For starters, there are essential nutrients that the brain relies on to help regulate our mood. Making small changes to diet may enhance your ability to concentrate and give you a more positive headspace.

Our brain uses around 20 per cent of the energy needed by the body. So if you’re not eating a well-balanced diet that includes sources of quality carbohydrates, you may experience low mood, fatigue and ‘brain fog’.

Good sources include wholegrains, starchy veg and fruit. You also want to make sure that you’re including foods rich in B vitamins, as research has associated this with reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. These are easy to add to the diet – you can find them in wholegrains, meat, eggs, dairy, legumes, nuts and leafy greens.

Tryptophan is an amino acid and studies show that this can help support our mood too. It’s used to make serotonin, which helps to regulate things like emotion, sleep and appetite. Make sure you’re including foods like chicken, turkey, eggs, tofu and nuts in your diet.

Omega 3 is a very important nutrient when it comes to brain health, and a very well-researched one. It’s been associated with reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and could reduce symptoms of depression. Oily fish such as salmon is a primary source of omega 3, but it can also be found in plant sources such as walnuts, flaxseeds and chia seeds. If for any reason you’re unable to include these foods, a supplement may be necessary.

Finally, make sure you’re staying hydrated. Even just slight dehydration can lead to headaches, fatigue and irritability.

Remember that although food plays a huge role in regulating our mood, a lack of sleep, along with high stress levels and little movement, can also contribute to poor mental health.

2. Food and your physical health

There are so many aspects to our physical health – bone and joint health, strength, flexibility – and these will all be different for everyone.

Food supports our immune system, muscle and bone mass, and our ability to work out effectively. All food groups have a role to play when it comes to our physical health, which is why it’s important to make sure you’re eating well-balanced meals and not eliminating whole food groups – or at least being mindful of where certain nutrients are coming from.

For example, if you cut out dairy, you may need to look for alternative calcium sources. Milk, cheese, and yoghurts are excellent sources of calcium, but you can also find it in foods like nuts, tofu, leafy greens, pulses, and fortified foods and drinks.

Protein is needed for building and maintaining muscle tissue, so make sure you’re including adequate sources at each meal and snack.

Carbohydrate is the preferred source of energy for the body (and brain) and essential fats play an important role in hormone regulation, as they aid absorption of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K).

And again, water is incredibly important as staying hydrated helps to regulate body temperature, keep our joints lubricated, carry nutrients around the body, and support the body’s different functions.

3. Food and your gut health

Gut health has been a hot topic over the last few years – for good reason. The gut absorbs nutrients from the foods we choose to eat and also helps the body get rid of unwanted waste.

The gut hosts both good and bad bacteria and the ratio of this bacteria can be influenced by our diet. This is why it is important to eat foods that help support our gut. There’s emerging research that tells us diversity in the diet is essential for good gut health, and so is fibre. The more variety you include, the better, particularly focusing on a range of plant foods, as all plant foods will give us some sort of fibre.

Try to challenge yourself to add 20-30 different plant foods a week into your diet – plant foods include plant proteins like tofu, tempeh, soy, edamame, chickpeas, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds, and different fruits and veggies.

The health of our gut can also be influenced by stress, exercise and sleep.

A roundup of Sophie’s top tips

  • increase your fruit and veggie intake
  • increase plant foods
  • meal prep and batch cook
  • stock up on tinned foods
  • prioritise a regular sleep pattern
  • get out for a 20 minute walk everyday

About Sophie Bertrand

Sophie Bertrand has a BSc degree in Psychology, an MSc in Nutrition and Eating Disorders and is registered with the Association for Nutrition as a Registered Nutritionist (RNutr).

She believes that eating for health is important, but so is eating for enjoyment. Sophie’s Healthy Kitchen has plenty of resources and recipes for eating well.

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We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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